By Soumo Ghosh,
AIFF Media Team
KOCHI: It has been a challenging last six months for the Indian Women’s Team inside the bio-bubble, training day in and day out while travelling abroad for exposure tours to play against some tough opponents. But the calming influence of Head Coach Thomas Dennerby has helped the players grow in the lead-up to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022. In a tête-à-tête with the-aiff.com, Dennerby revisited his younger days, when he would also serve as a police officer while playing or coaching, and how that experience has changed him, both as a person, and as a coach. EXCERPTS:
You’ve been known to operate in a very different and calm manner. Is it something that you’ve developed over the years?
I’ve heard that for many years. But I can be angry maybe once or twice in a year. And when I do get angry, I get very angry (laughs). That comes when I see people not trying hard. As long as you try, put in your best effort, and play the game with passion, I never get angry even if you make a mistake.
So do you also get upset?
When I see someone being lazy, or not following the plan, or not caring for it, that upsets me. But it’s something that also comes with age. My temperament used to go up and down when I was younger, but with age, I’ve mellowed down a lot. Sometimes even the players ask me, ‘Thomas, you need to yell at us more’. I ask them, ‘Why?’
They say, ‘Yeah, we need to wake up sometimes, you need to yell at us’. That’s when I ask them, ‘What do you like to hear most, encouragement, or yelling?’
If you’re a coach that yells at the players every match at half-time, then over a period of time, the players also get sensitised to that and it stops having the desired effect. But if you do it on occasions when it is required, then it hits them when you do it. Do it only if you have a very good reason to be angry, otherwise don’t do it. That’s my opinion.
How have you developed this mind set over the years?
I was at the Police Academy back in my younger days, and some of my friends used to tell me, ‘Thomas, you’re too kind to be a police officer’. But I’d tell them that if someone should be kind, it should be a police officer. Your role is to help other people.
The first seven years when I played football, we were semi-professionals. We were police officers, firefighters, someone would be driving an ambulance, and so on. You had to have an education and a job because the money you’d earn from football was not enough. You could live on it, but it was on the edge.
How has being a police officer changed your perspective?
I used to go around in my patrol car, and that gave me a different perspective in life. It taught me things that are important in life, and things that are not.
Can you elaborate?
Is a bad pass more important than going to a place and taking care of people that are suffering, or going to prevent a suicide? So I learnt to better value the more important things in life. Sometimes, when I started coaching, I could go patrolling the whole night, maybe solve some really bad family issue, to just put on the jersey and head to the football pitch in the morning. When you see what you see on such nights, you can’t come back and start yelling at people for missing a pass, because you get another feeling of what things are important in life.
I’ve also done my fair share of surveillance, so I’ve had to deal with some of the worst criminals in Sweden, and that changes your perspective in life. You realise things that are really important, and things that are not.
There are a couple of police officers in the Indian Women’s Team as well. Do you connect with them at a different level?
I’ve had a number of girls who trained under me in both Sweden and in this team (India), who are policewomen. I’ve had talks with most of them, and they’re all good human beings. It’s good that this is the case, because as a police officer, you need to help other people, first and foremost. So you need to be a good human being.